Marianas Tourism Education Council chair Vicky Benavente didn’t mince words when describing people who throw rocks at tourist buses on Saipan.
“They’re just a bunch of sick people who have nothing to do. I don’t want to pay attention to them and just focus on people who do have a good attitude who do make our islands a better place to live,” she said after being named the 2014 Saipan Chamber of Commerce Businessperson of the Year last Saturday at the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan.
Benavente, who is the wife of former lieutenant governor Diego, said they mentioned the rock-throwing incidents at the MTEC Tourism Summit last week.
“We actually mentioned that during the tourism summit yesterday (Jan. 23) and Thursday (Jan. 22) and the room was full of kids—350 kids on the first day and 350 kids on the second day. Both days we mentioned that and they were all so silent and they understood that kind of attitude and behavior is detrimental to the livelihood [of the islands]. Many of their parents work in the hotels and the restaurants. Almost all businesses on island are tourism-related.”
She said the rock-throwing incidents go against everything the Commonwealth stands for in how it welcomes and treats tourists.
“It’s also not our nature to be that way. That incident, although isolated, can be devastating to the islands’ tourism industry.”
Benavente, who is the executive assistant manager of Pacific Islands Club Saipan, is a veteran of the CNMI’s tourism sector, having worked more than 30 years in the local tourism and hospitality industry. She is a former managing director of the Marianas Visitors Authority, which serves as the government’s national tourism office.
On Jan. 15 this month, it was reported that a bus carrying 200 Japanese students was hit around 2:45pm, cracking the right passenger side window. The bus was heading north and passing Tanapag Elementary School when it happened.
The January incident comes on top of another incident involving a Duty Free shuttle bus in December.